Dementia affects over 340,000 Australians. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and the second leading cause of deaths in Australia.
These statistics are heartbreaking when you consider the number of Australian families facing associated trials. Littered throughout online support groups are testimonies of despair, isolation and frustration. Individuals are reaching out to their community for support and aids that will make their journey easier.
World Dementia Month – September
This month is World Dementia Month; an opportunity for nations to adopt better awareness and to act.
Myself, and a select group of Australian authors and illustrators saw the need to create children’s stories that penetrate into situations such as ageing and dementia. Just as importantly, they explore acceptance, change, and the preservation of valuable relationships. Remembering is an important way we sustain a loving connection. This is a common thread in the all the books showcased below.
As an illustrator and writer for children, it has been my heart’s desire to use books to help children emotionally. At the core of every book I’ve created is encouragement and the potential for emotional reinforcement. I partnered with debut children’s author- Victoria Lane, in the creation of Celia and Nonna; a picture book by Ford Street Publishing.
Victoria’s story was the perfect primed canvas for heart felt illustrations and a book that would help communally. The story gave opportunity to project understanding and hope into uncertainty not only reassuring the reader but empower them!
Children and dementia
Safely navigating change
The decline of an elderly relative can impact a child. Children are important in the lives of the elderly but too often the first to be isolated from them. In a relationship between a loved one with dementia and a child, the child needs to have understanding and feel secure. Where appropriate, children’s books can be used to safety navigate them through tough subjects, cultivating compassion and peace along the way.
Empowering a child during change
When and confronting life situations arise, children are often left feeling helpless; bystanders looking on as adults manage every concern. To some degree this is healthy (a child shouldn’t have to rescue the adult), but it does empower a child when they can positively contribute somehow.
In Celia and Nonna, the child protagonist Celia embraces residential change by drawing pictures. She uses her visits to preserves memories, assisting nesting process and celebrating their relationship together all through imagery. Celia’s mirror my own! Celia’s creative acts of kindness are helpful to the pair as they navigate the changes but ultimately realises that time together is what is most important.
In When I See Grandma, written by Debra Tidball and illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom, Grandma’s memories are brought to life through her dreams as the granddaughter shares with her everyday things she enjoys doing.
In Harry Helps Grandpa Remember written by Karen Tyrrell and illustrated by Aaron Pocock, Harry shares coping skills to help his grandpa boost his memory and confidence.
In Lucas and Jack, written by Ellie Royce and illustrated by Andrew McLean, Lucas’ encounter with elderly Jack reveals to him what Lucas can’t see on the surface – the rich past of each resident – and in so doing, gives Lucas the key to connecting with his Grandpop through inquiring about his childhood memories.
The grandchild mouse in Do You Remember co-written by Anna Mc Neil and Kelly O’Gara and illustrated by Kelly O’Gara uses artwork to honour Grandma’s memories.
At times humorous, at times poignant, always heartfelt, these stories will inspire and encourage children and families who are grappling with change and illness in those they love. Each unique and beautifully illustrated stories offers practical strategies to connect and share love with elderly grandparents even in difficult, changing, and confusing circumstances.
More information/World Dementia Month Press Release
Article about books that edify the reader and emotive illustration:
Kayleen has written an article this week, Books That Build In Hard Places, where she shares (with examples) how she used illustrations to steer the child reader safety through her picture book Celia and Nonna. An informative article about thinking communally, sensory experience, and what to consider when creating an emotive picture book. You can read this article here.
Kayleen West is an award winning children’s author, illustrator, designer and creative educator. Her works hang in private and corporate collections around the world including the Australian Embassy in Ireland. Since late 2009 she has authored picture books, Adoptive Father (Etrinity Publishing) and Without Me? (Wombat Books). She has also illustrated picture books, Better Than A Superhero (EBP), Celia and Nonna (Ford Street Publishing) and soon to be released We Worship God (Xist Publishing). She is also the author and illustrator of a new colouring book for adults, Positively Quote Colouring Book (Etrinity Publishing).
View more of her work and order her books from her website.